Even if hands were used a lot during meals, sometimes cutlery was needed.
Spoons for soups, porridge or stews were made of bone, horn or wood. A small iron knife was used to slice meat and bread and to dig out the nutritious marrow from bones. Claw-shaped forks were used to pick up food from saucepans.
Cooking vessels and saucepans were made of ceramic, iron or soapstone. These were placed either directly on the hot coals or hung on a type of chain above the fire.
Large pieces of meat were placed on a spit and grilled over hot coals on an open fire. A frying pan was used both to bake bread and to fry meat or fish.
Household articles such as plates and cups were usually made of wood, a material that is quickly destroyed. In archaeological excavations wooden artefacts are rarely found. Exceptions are objects which ended up in moist or water-saturated land.
Beakers and drinking horns with beautifully formed details were only used in very well-to-do homes with wide contact networks.
In many well-to-do homes the internal walls were covered with woven tapestries with colourful designs. Few of the tapestries have survived, but in 1909 a very dirty and battered old quilt was found. It was discovered in a tool shed beside the church in Överhogdal, Härjedalen, when the church was being renovated.
The quilt was sewn together out of five woven tapestries of different sizes. It seems that two of them had hung together in an approximately 4 metre long, 35 centimetre wide wall tapestry. For a long time it was thought that the tapestries were from the Middle Ages, but in recent years dating methods established that they were from the latter part of the Viking Age. Analyses using the carbon-14 dating method show that they were woven at some point between 1070 and 1140.
The tapestries are woven from right to left, on an upright warp-weighted loom. The technique used for four of the weaves is snare weave , where the weft has been pressed upward with a batten or by hand, while the fifth is a double weave. The base cloth is made of linen, while the figures are made of plant dyed wool yarn. The blue colour comes from woad, the red from madder and the yellow from weld.
What is actually depicted on the tapestries has been debated since they were discovered. The design is a teeming throng of people, horses and fabulous mythical creatures. In long rows they hurry forward, past trees, houses, churches and ships. Interpretations have varied but it is clear that the scenes take place during the transition from Old Norse traditions to Christianity.
Some see the story of Ragnarök, others the Christian apocalypse and still others maintain that episodes from the Volsunga Saga are depicted. Or is it the legend of how the missionary Staffan brought Christianity to Härjedalen? Doubtless there is no definite answer but we can be certain that those who once wove and looked at the tapestry in its original condition would have been able to read the motifs and understand the contents.
The original tapestries from Överhogdal are on display in the County Museum of Jämtland, Jamtli, in Östersund.